On December 20, 2007, Governor Strickland signed into law the “Ohio Veterans Package” (Sub. H.B. 372), which is intended to support members and veterans of the armed services. Among other things, the Act exempts the estates of service men and women who die in active service from certain probate fees, exempts retired military personnel pay for military service from the Ohio income tax, and designates Interstate Routes 70 and 71 in Ohio as the “Purple Heart Trail.”

Perhaps the most significant change made by the statute – particularly for Ohio employers – is the addition of “military status” to the list of protected classes under R.C. 4112.02. This change means that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their military status in the same way that they are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, ancestry, or disability. The Act defines “military status” as “service in the uniformed services,” including voluntary or involuntary service in the U.S. armed forces, full-time National Guard duty, and duty or training for the Ohio Organized Militia. Questions sure to arise under this new legislation are whether it applies only to current military status, as opposed to veteran status, and whether, in light of the statute’s ban on publishing advertisements for employment that indicate a preference as to military status, it will bar employer preferences in favor of individuals based on their military status.

According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s status report, the Act goes into effect on March 24, 2008. In anticipation of this effective date, Ohio employers are advised to add “military status” to the list of protected classifications in their EEO statements and nondiscrimination/anti-harassment policies.

To view the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s detailed analysis of the new law, click here.